Ken Rosenthal of Fox has a story today in which he talks to multiple players and league and union officials about the state of drug testing and performance enhancing drugs in baseball.
The big takeaway here, I think, is that players openly and sharply talk about their frustration with PED users now in ways they never would’ve years ago. We saw this change begin after the Mitchell Report and as the MLBPA membership began to agree to and then, later, agitate for harsher penalties for drug users. What was once a taboo subject around which players carefully tread is now something against which they actively campaign.
That, more than home run totals and the number of tests and suspensions handed out, tell you about the state of PEDs in the game. They still exist, of course. Players still get suspensions and, as Rosenthal’s report notes, no testing regime will ever be perfect. Partially because cheaters are always ahead of the testers, partially because no testing can be frequent enough to get some drugs due to how short a period the stay in one’s system. So a lot of the talk is about how to live in a world that, while imperfect, is still pointed in the right direction and shows how little tolerated PEDs are by players.
Some, however, still want the system to be tougher. Justin Verlander, for example, tells Rosenthal that a one strike and you’re out approach is the way to go:
“How do you clean it up? Maybe more severe punishments,” Verlander said.
“If there is proven intent to cheat — i.e. you tested positive or it’s found that you were taking an illegal substance, PEDs, and trying to cheat the system, trying to go around it — I think it should be a ban from baseball.
“It’s too easy for guys to serve a suspension and come back and still get paid.”
I doubt that could ever fly, either legally or practically. While guys lie all the time now, a false positive is always possible in a drug testing scenario. And mixups and cross-contamination of supplements, etc., can occur too. Now baseball uses a zero tolerance approach which does not interest itself with the intent or the why of it. Probably for good reason as that would be a very difficult thing to determine and would lead to a lot of litigation. Under Verlander’s proposal, every positive test would lead to a protracted legal battle about intent. It would simply be unworkable.
Still, interesting to see the sea change in player sentiment about all of this in the past several years.